NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: The 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, has told Senator Godswill Akpabio-led Senate that they’ve not addressed the issue of padding the 2024 budget with N3.7trn despite hitting Senator Abdul Ningi, the Bauchi Senator, with suspension.

Senator Ningi was suspended on Tuesday during plenary over the allegation that N3.7trn was without line items in the 2024 budget in an interview on the BBC Hausa Service.

This led to a fractious debate on Tuesday forcing the Senate to hit him with suspension.

Obi however said the real issue regarding the discrepancies in the budget has not been addressed.

“The fuss over the alleged N3trn padded into the 2024 budget raised by a Senator still rages as the Senate’s reaction of suspending the whistle-blower has not addressed vital issues emanating from the allegation,” Obi said on Wednesday in a statement he shared on social media.

He said, “The Senator is insisting on his allegation and the Executive agreed that there was only N1.2trn padded not N3trn as alleged by the Senator.

“Fresh allegations have also cropped up over indiscriminate and unbalanced allocation of constituency projects by the Senate leadership.

“A civic society group, Budgit, through their official, have also added their voice to agree with the Senator. They allege that there were no detailed project allocations for about N3.7trn in the 2024 Appropriation Act.”

He argued that “As the Senate suspension of the senator involved has not addressed the issue, they still owe the Nigerian public a clear clarification over the various claims and counterclaims, including that of the executive arm, to be able to know exactly what is happening, and also disclose to the public, the exact amounts allocated for constituency projects for appropriate monitoring of implementation by the public.

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“I had particularly elucidated in my earlier comment on what we can use the N3trn to achieve, by showing that it is more than the national budget of the two most critical components of the human development index, health and education, combined.

“Now that the executive arm has accepted that the padded amount is only N1.2 trillion, it is still a very significant amount, when you consider that it is almost 5 times the N251.47 billion proposed for Universal Basic Education, which is the foundation of education, in the Country.”

Obi stressed that “Today in Nigeria, the greatest challenge to human resource development is education, which has been identified as most critical at the basic level.

“Nigeria has about 20 million out-of-school children today because of the poor investment in education. These are resources that would have been utilised to ensure that our children are taken off the streets and returned to schools.

“The N1.2trn which the executive branch admitted to have been padded, if channelled into any of the critical areas of development, could have positively impacted the nation and uplifted the people.

“And if indeed the report from Budgit is true, that there is about N3.7 trillion without any detailed project allocations, I strongly urge the Senate to do more detailed work of channelling these funds into the critical areas of development – education, health and pulling people out of poverty, which will in turn, minimise the criminality we are facing today.

“We must, as a matter of urgency, put a stop to all the wastage of our scarce resources, amid the excruciating hardship in the country.

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“Let every penny of our public fund be used for public good. That is the only way to achieve the New Nigeria we are working towards,” Obi stated.

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